Turning Cheeks, Breaking Chains, Lifting Voices

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February 23, 2014              Trujillo, Peru                   Seventh Sunday after Epiphany

As I was in Trujillo, I was able to visit congregations in the ILEP (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Peru) and meet with community and church leaders who are passionate about holistic ministry of spiritual, emotional, and physical health.  Their understanding of the gospel is one that pushes them to act against the injustices that face Trujillo on a daily bases – Tuberculosis, AIDS, domestic violence, gang violence, rape, and political corruption.  I was honored when Hermano Jorge asked me to preach at San Andres congregation during my visit.  The gospel text for that Sunday were Christ’s words of love and non-violence found in Matthew 5:38-48.  During a week of news filled with violence in Venezuela, Ukraine, the United States, Egypt, Syria, Kenya, Peru, and elsewhere, it was a sobering text to speak on in the midst of a community that seeks to combat violence and corruption with the love of Christ.  Below is the sermon I delivered in Spanish.  The English translation is found just below it.  Texts for the sermon were from Matthew 5:38-48, Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23.

Rompiendo Cadenas, Levantando Voces, Sueño Hecho Carne

Oremos.  Ven a nosotros, oh Espíritu Santo.  Y restáuranos para amar a nuestros enemigos a través del poder de Cristo que mora en nosotros, para que podamos romper las cadenas de la injustica y cambiar nuestro mundo por amor.  Amén.

Estaba viajando en el bus en Trujillo leyendo el periódico.  Leí sobre Venezuela, el presidente Maduro, las protestas, los 6 estudiantes que han sido asesinados por el gobierno, y vi a una foto de las cartas Leonardo López ha mandado desde su sitio en la cárcel.  Leí sobre Ucrania, las protestas y los más de 75 ciudadanos que han muerto en la lucha.  Leí sobre la violencia en los EEUU donde la violencia con armas está permitida bajo la ley en el estado de Florida y por esa ley dos jóvenes inocentes han sido víctimas del temor y racismo de sus vecinos.   Leí sobre Perú donde jóvenes están convertidos en cadáveres por el querer de robar teléfonos celulares y donde la violencia doméstica es una realidad ineludible.  Leí que una de cada tres mujeres en el planeta va a ser golpeada o violada en su vida…un billón de mujeres, hijas, madres, abuelas, hermanas, amigas.

Sentí algo creciendo dentro de mí.  Era un sentimiento que conocí bien.  Era odio.  Era temor, era el conocimiento que yo también tengo la capacitad de hacer actos de violencia.  Era un cáncer que me comía porque no vi a ni un lado evidencia de esperanza.  Mi indignación a la injusticia me quitó las fuerzas y el odio me rodeaba ocultándome de la luz del día.  Me quedé dormida y soñaba.

Abrí mis ojos y El Ladrón me saludó.  Tenía una cara muy amable y una voz que me consolaba.  <<Conozco bien tu sentimiento>> me dijo.  Y me presentó con las herramientas de resolver todos mis problemas…fueron armas y cuchillos, palabras de odio y rencor.  Me miró el ladrón y me dijo <<¿Tienes problemas con el gobierno?  Mata al político.  ¿El gobierno tiene problemas con sus ciudadanos? Mata a los que protestan.  ¿Tienes problemas con tu esposa?  Golpéala.  ¿Tienes problemas con tu hijo?  Golpéalo.  ¿Tu vecino está escuchando a música y haciendo mucha bulla?  Dispárale.>> 

Me estremecía mientras que mi agarro se apretó sobre las herramientas que el ladrón me había dado. 

Soñé que estuvieron ustedes ahí conmigo.  Fuimos por Venezuela, por Ucrania, por Egipto, por Kenia, por los EEUU, por las calles de Trujillo, por los hogares donde nuestros vecinos quedaron con contusiones y vergüenza.  Juntos mirábamos al mundo en que habitamos donde las fuerzas nos fallan, donde el poder nos corrupta, donde el querer de sobrevivir y mantener el poder nos quedan con cadáveres a nuestro rededor.

Nuestras lágrimas cayeron sobre el suelo que florecía frutos podridos de violencia y odio.  Desesperados, nuestro llanto fue recibido por el Espíritu de Dios.  La mano de Dios actuando en nuestro mundo.  El Defensor nuestro que ve a nuestras heridas y clama por justicia.

Soñé que estuvimos entre la multitud escuchando a las palabras de Jesús.  Él nos miró con la multitud: gente sin poder, gente débil, gente golpeada por la vida, por el gobierno, por los sistemas injustos y relaciones abusivas, y también gente que practican violencia y abuso por el intento vano de deshacerse de sus circunstancias que les hacen sentir inútiles. 

<<Fueron creados por algo mejor.>>  Su voz dijo.  <<Fueron creados por justicia, por vida, por amor.  Amen a sus prójimos, amen a sus enemigos y oren por quienes los persiguen.  Así ustedes demuestran al mundo que son hijas e hijos de Dios.>>

Soñé que estuvimos en el monte de Calvario y las heridas de Cristo abrieron anchas para tragar todas las armas, cuchillos, violaciones, atrocidades, abusos.  Y aun abrieron sus heridas para tragar al ladrón y la muerte, quitando el poder que tenían sobre nosotros.

Vimos que él fue traspasado a causa de nuestra rebeldía,
fue atormentado a causa de nuestras maldades;
el castigo que sufrió nos trajo la paz,
por sus heridas alcanzamos la salud.

Vimos que la sangre derramada por nosotros nos llevó al vientre de la tumba vacía y las cicatrices de la violencia fueron lavados en un reino que viene del Dios humillado en la cruz, él que no tuvo miedo de mostrar misericordia a sus enemigos, él que demostró indignación cuando le enfrontó a la injusticia, corrupción y violencia no con armas y odio pero con amor y convicción, él que allanaba el camino para que la vida abundante florezca…

Escuché la voz de Cristo, <<El ladrón viene solamente para robar, matar y destruir; pero yo he venido para que tengan vida, y para que la tengan en abundancia.>>

Sus palabras me chocaron y desperté de mi sueño.

Al mirar por la ventana del bus, vi que la sabiduría de este mundo que nos dice que la violencia es más fácil que el diálogo fue convertida en tontería por el Cristo que se humilló en la cruz y se levantó de poder de la tumba vacía. 

Bajé del bus y estuvieron ustedes ahí a mi lado.  Vimos la cara de Jesús en nuestros prójimos, en la gente que nos pasaba.  Reconocimos que somos el templo de Dios donde mora paz y amor y el poder de deshacer la cadena de violencia e injusticia.  

Y al recordar eso, dejamos caer en suelo las herramientas del ladrón y agarramos al amor que nos hizo renacer por la vida en abundancia. 

El espíritu nos tomó de la mano y caminábamos al ritmo de la kena y zampoña, listos por el trabajo de romper las cadenas de injusticia y anunciar que somos creados por algo mejor. 

<<Somos creados para la vida abundante>> la voz del espíritu nos dijo <<y ese sueño ha hecho carne por el Cristo de amor.>>

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Turning Cheeks, Breaking Chains, Dreams Made Flesh

Let us pray:  Come to us, Holy Spirit, and restore us to love our enemies by the power of Christ at work within us so that we may break chains of injustice and change the world around us by love.  Amen.

I was traveling on a bus in Trujillo, reading the newspaper.  I read about Venezuela, President Maduro, the protests, the six students who have been killed by police forces, and I saw pictures of Leonardo Lopez’ letters from prison.  I read about Ukraine, the protests and the more than 75 citizens who have died in the last month.  I read about the United States, about the “Stand Your Ground Laws” that have made it possible to use lethal force against perceived threats, I read about youths being killed due to the fear and racism of their neighbors.  I read about Peru where teenagers are converted into cadavers for their cell phones and where domestic violence is treated as an inevitable reality.  I read that one in every three women in the world will be beaten or raped in her lifetime…one billion women, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends.

I felt something growing inside of me.  It was a feeling I knew well.  It was hate.  It was fear.  It was the knowledge that I, too, have the capacity to participate in heinous acts of violence.  It was a cancer that ate me up because I did not see hope anywhere around me.  My indignation at injustice stole my strength and the hate I felt surrounded me, shutting out the light of day.  Exhausted, I fell asleep and dreamed.

I opened my eyes and the Thief greeted me.  He had a very friendly face and a voice that consoled me.

“I know your feeling well,” he said to me.  And he presented me with tools to resolve all of my problems…guns, knives, words of hate and bitterness.  I looked at the Thief and he said to me, “You have problems with your government?  Kill a politician.  The government has problems with its citizens?  Kill the protestors.  You have problems with your wife?  Punch her.  You have problems with your kid?  Hit him.  Your neighbor is listening to music too loud and making noise?  Shoot him.”

I became overwhelmed as my grip tightened over the tools that the Thief had given me…

I dreamed you all were there with me.  We went to Venezuela, to Ukraine, to Egypt, to Kenya, to the United States, to the streets of Trujillo, to the homes were our neighbors are marked by bruises and shame.  Together we gazed upon the world in which we live where strength fails us, where power corrupts us, where the desire to dominate at all costs has left us with corpses all around us.

Our tears fell upon the ground that was flowered with putrid fruit of violence and hatred.  In despair, our cry was received by the Spirit of God, the hand of God acting in our world, our Advocate that sees our scars and cries out for justice.

I dreamed that we were part of the multitude that heard the words of Jesus.  He looked upon us in the crowd:  people without power, people who have been humbled, people who have been beaten up by life, by the government, by injustice systems and abusive relationships.  Yet he also gazed upon us – the people who practice violence and abuse as a vain attempt to dissolve circumstances that make us feel useless.

“You were created for so much more,” his voice said. “You were created for justice, for life, for love.  Love your neighbors, love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you.  That is how you show the world you are daughters and sons of God.”

I dreamed that we were at Calvary and that the wounds of Christ opened wide to swallow all the weapons, rapes, atrocities, abuses.  They even opened wider to swallow the Thief and Death, ending the power they had over us.

Together, we saw that “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”1

Together, we saw that the blood poured out for us led us inside the womb of the empty grave where all the scars from our violence were washed in a kingdom that comes to us in a humbled God on a cross, the God who did not have fear to show mercy towards enemies, the God who demonstrated indignation when confronted with injustice, corruption, and violence – not with weapons and hate, but with love and conviction, the God who prepared the way for abundant life to flourish…

I heard the voice of Christ, “The Thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; but I have come so that you may have life and have life abundantly.”

His words startled me and I awoke from my dream.

As I looked outside the bus window, I saw that the wisdom of this world that says that violence is easier than dialog was converted into foolishness by the Christ who humbled himself to death on a cross and rose from the grave.

I stepped off the bus and you all were there with me, by my side.  We saw the face of Christ in our neighbors, in the people that past by us.  We recognized that we are the temple of God, the dwelling space where peace and love and the power to break the chains of violence and injustice live.

As we remembered this, we loosened our grip on the Thief’s tools, letting them fall upon the flowered ground.  And instead, we took hold of the Love that made us alive once again to live in life abundant.

The Spirit took us by the hand and we walked to the rhythm of the kena and the zampoña, ready for the work ahead of us of breaking chains of injustice and announcing that we were created for so much more.

“We were created for abundant life,” the voice of the Spirit sang to us, “and that dream has been birthed in you by the Christ of love.”

1Isaiah 53:5, Isaías 53:5

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With Hermano Jorge and the young adults of San Andres congregation.

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With a parishioner of San Andres Evangelical Lutheran Church.

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Storycatching in Peru: Sechura Desert, Andes Mountains, Amazon Jungle

 

 

 

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Hola from Peru!  I arrived in Piura, Peru by bus via Ecuador about three weeks ago and it has already been a whirlwind of getting to know multiple ministries, hearing the stories of Peruvian people, visiting cultural sites, listening to regional music and trying local dishes.  While in Peru, I will be focusing on how the reading, listening, and preaching of Scripture (the Story of God) leads Christian communities to participate in not only ecclesial service but also in everyday civic society.  For many Christians in Peru, the Gospel story has become a voice for denouncing economic, political, and ecological injustices as they seek to remind Peru’s society and government of the stories of the forgotten ones in their midst.  I will observe how Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as well as local congregations have used the biblical narrative in their community’s storytelling traditions to expand on how the Story gives voice to the marginalized of society through peace and justice.

Here´s a breakdown of the last few weeks:

Piura – I visited with WMPL missionaries and locals who are beginning the process of church planting and discipleship in the desert of Northern Peru.  

Chiclayo – Peruvian Lutherans in the Iglesia Luterana Evangélica de Chiclayo (ILECH) took me on a tour of their congregations and efforts to bring the good news of Christ to their neighborhoods through vacation Bible school, music ministries, and health campaigns.

Trujillo, La Magdalena, Chocofán – Peruvian Lutherans in the Iglesia Luterana Evangélica de Perú (ILEP) have taught me the importance of holistic ministry, empowered by the Story of God at work in the world.  Being the top country in Latin America with cases of Tuberculosis, local parishioners in Trujillo are inspired by the Gospel of Christ to attend to the whole of the person (mind, body, soul) and are involved with campaigns to bring relief to those who suffer from sickness and violence in the community.

This evening I will be heading to Huaráz and then onto Huanuco.  I will be spending time with Bible Translators as well as local Quechua Christians who are embracing the Gospel Story as their own as they live in community.

I thank you for your prayers and your accompaniment along this journey with me.

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Storycatching Tour Peru Edition!  Tumbes—Piura—Chiclaylo—Trujillo—La Magdalena—Chocofan—Huaráz—Huanuco—✈Lima✈Cusco—Arequipa—Cusco—Ollantaytambo—Machu Picchu—Sacred Valley✈Iquitos—Amazon River✈Lima✈Juliaca—Puno—Lake Titicaca

Peace from Peru,

Rachel
#onestorycatcher

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Participated with local Peruvians and members of the ILECH in the One Billion Rising demonstration in Chiclayo (Un Billón De Pie).

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Youth group from San Antonio, Chiclayo are so passionate about sharing the story of Christ with their neighbors.  Many of these youth travel hours away to read scripture with the people and preach in surrounding towns.

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At the Museo de Cao in La Magdalena off the coast of the Pacific. This Moche temple was constructed over 500 years before the Incan empire.

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Cañan (lizard) is a delicacy of San Pedro.  I was invited to try Ceviche de Cañan with Hermano Jorge, who pastors four congregations in Trujillo and the surrounding towns.  

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Tastes like chicken! … Only a bit more chewy…

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Learning some new tunes and sharing some of my own with San Andres Lutheran congregation in Trujillo.  The Andean music of this region is simply beautiful.

 

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Jericho Song of the Andes

January 24, 2014 Alausí, Ecuador

Pastor Felipe walks up the steep slope to his parents house in the highlands of Cañar to pick me up for a day of visiting indigenous Quichua congregations in the Andes Mountains. Dressed in a black poncho, his long raven black hair falls from the white Cañari hat he wears. His deep voice echoes as he talks about how he became a pastor in the Indigenous Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ecuador (IELIE) and about his work with Pastor Lauro and the Lutheran Bible Institute of Ecuador (IBLE). Along with Pastor Lauro, a Lutheran pastor from the coast of Ecuador, Felipe works towards creating biblical literacy among Lutheran Quichua communities in the Andes by offering Bible studies and Lutheran theology classes.

Pastor Lauro, Pastor Felipe, and I hop into the minivan and drive. We pass rich, green farmland filled with crops and sheep that graze on the hills. My stomach begins to knot and I begin to feel lightheaded as we ascend closer to the peak where Iglesia Nueva Jerusalén rests at 10, 498 feet above sea level.

We are greeted by Pastor Taita Alberto. Pastor Lauro introduces me, saying that I have studied to be a pastor in the Lutheran church in the United States. “Although this is something we don’t understand here, it is her reality in the United States,” Pastor Lauro says to Pastor Alberto, referencing the Ecuadorian Lutheran church body’s prohibition of women’s ordination. Pastor Alberto shakes my hand, “Welcome, sister,” he says to me.

Prior to coming to the village, I was told that in the Quichua villages there has been a lot of prejudice against Lutheran Quichuas. Others in the community call them “medio cristianos” (half-Christians) because they received baptism as infants and not as adults which is the custom for most non-Lutheran evangelical congregations in Ecuador.

Pastor Lauro asks me to share my story. So I do.

I was baptized the day I was born by a nurse – a rebel nun – stationed at the NICU at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, PA. As I was on the brink of death, she poured water over my head and uttered Words of redemption over my small frame. As the water seeped into my pores, God’s promises of love and adoption claimed me as a child forever grateful for the good work that God would continue to nurture in me until completion. The doctors who delivered me told my parents that as a premature baby with underdeveloped lungs, I would not live much longer and if by some small chance I did survive, I would not be able to talk or sing or dance or walk or function well without assistance. Yet, by the grace of God, the baptismal promises spoken over me birthed resurrection in my mouth and lungs and hands and feet as I have grown up flitting between Sunday school, choir concerts, dance recitals, playground monkey bars, the great Pyramids of Egypt, the pulpit, the birth place of Christ in Palestine, praise band platforms, the slopes of the Andes Mountains, and the communion rail where the “for you” promise resounds from the echoes of that rebel nurse’s words the day I was born.

As I share my story in Spanish, Pastor Felipe translates for me in Quichua. We read scripture together as a community about God’s work within us as a work of grace that comes to us without merit. We rejoice in the gift that is to be called children of God.

As I sit down from sharing my story, Pastor Alberto thanks me. He asks the women present to sing for me as to share their story in their way. The women seated on benches, wrapped in shawls, grin sheepishly and slowly make their way to the front of the sanctuary. I hand Pastor Antonio my guitar and he sits to accompany the women in their song. He begins strumming and the women start to sway with such purpose.

And then…
they sing.

My heart trembles at the sheer volume and intensity in their sound together.
Amidst the slopes of the Andes, the women sing Psalm 121.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Their voice is the sound that brought down the walls of Jericho.

Their song reminds me that we are embraced and held by the Maker of heaven and earth – the One who promises to watch over our lives, to watch our coming and going now and forevermore.

It is a song I am familiar with as one who has been rescued from the grave.
It is the song that filled my lungs with life 28 years ago.
It is the song that continues to be the cadence by which I move on this earth.

It is the song the Quichua of Alausi have heard as their own and labor to proclaim to their neighbors.

It is the song we strain our ears a little harder to hear as ones who need to be reminded that the dividing wall of hostility has crumbled down* leaving only room for redemption, for reconciliation, for new life to burst forth like Jericho songs echoing off of the Andean slopes.

Rachel Ringlaben
#onestorycatcher

Click here for another video of the women asking me to join in their next song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwcYWftLDn4

*(Eph. 2:14).

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Juan Carlos’ Story – Juan Carlos Jesusta crishcamunda

Juan Carlos, a young Christian of Salasaca, shares his testimony in the Salasacan dialect of Quichua. The translation into English is below:

”When I came to know the Heavenly Father, I didn´t come to know Him here in Salasaca, I met Him in another town which is Altobalo. There, I met Him in a very distinct and special way. It was a special manner in which I met the Lord and after I came to Salasaca, the brothers and sisters of this church in Salasaca helped me a lot. They taught me and discipiled in me in how to act as a new believer, how one guards their walk inside and outside the church.

But it was also very difficult because my parents are not Christians. This makes things difficult because my father, who is not a Christian, drinks alcohol a lot, which makes me feel bad. But the people in the church have helped me feel better in how to communicate with my parents in a better way. Now I am able to express myself in a good way with my parents because we get along. What I would like to say is that we all should follow the Father because when you follow the Father and you are with Him, you discover an inner peace that you cannot discover anywhere else or when you are far away from Him. For example, before, I consumed a lot of alcohol and I did bad things, well, in my opinion they were bad. But later, when I met God, I realized that I was on the wrong path.

My friends and companions from the church have helped me a lot. I know that God is with me, I can do anything because He is a great support for me, although no one else supports me, He is always with me. The only thing more I can say is that living with God is the best and we all should do it because it is the only way to find inner peace within ourselves because without that peace we will never be happy. He is our happiness.

That is my story and I have wanted to follow Him and praise Him in a way that is actualized in my life. Now [in Salasaca] most of the teenagers and young adults do not follow God and it is very distinct. My great hope is that all of them come to know God and follow Him. Follow God because it is the only thing that will bring us peace. May God bless you all!”

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Jenny’s Story — Jenny Jesusta crishcamunda

Jenny, a young Christian of Salasaca, shares her testimony in the Salasacan dialect of Quichua. The translation into English is below:

”When I was a little girl, I always felt alone and that I didn’t matter to anyone. My father and mother didn’t live together and because my father’s family marginalized us. I grew up with this feeling of sadness. But there was a change when I began to know and walk with God. God helped me and has been with me in all times. When I was sad or needed someone, I always thought that a friend would ask me, ´How are you? Are you alright? Do you need something?´ But that hardly ever happened that they would ask me about how I was doing. But there was one person who was always concerned about me and I thank that person that never stopped supporting me. And also, God was always with me. Thanks to God I have maintained myself here. There was a time where I felt very sad. I asked God to help me and to take away my sadness. God answered my prayer and I decided to be baptized and follow in God’s path and to be a help in the church and to help others who have felt the same as me. I was baptized and until now I have felt good. I would like to walk in the path of God until the last days of my life.”

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Guillermo’s Story — Guillermo Jesusta crishcamunda

Guillermo, a church youth group leader of Salasaca, shares his testimony in the Salasacan dialect of Quichua. The translation into English is below:

”A special greeting to all who know me in Ecuador, in foreign lands and Europe. A greeting in the name in our Lord Jesus Christ to all I know. My name is Guillermo Masaquiza. Above all, I am a young Christian. I have been a Christian since I was a child. My mother brought me to the church since I was six months old. From then on I maintained in the church. My mother taught me the principles of the Bible and what God wants for each of us, what we want out of life, what young people should do, and that the young people of our country would carry out a revolution that shows the love of God. When I was 17 years old I was baptized and I came to know the true love of God. Since 17, I have pertained to a church and now I am 27 years old and I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it because God has given me so many things — studies, wisdom, a job, and above all a good testimony for Him to have the strength to continue forward according to the word of God.

Jesus said ‘Pray and ask I will give it to you.’ Knowing this I have spent time in prayer to God that He would help me in my teenage and young adult years because I want to be a youth of good testimony according to his word. Thanks to God, the majority of the youth here know me and have asked me, ‘How is it that you are different? We go out partying all the time and getting drunk, sleeping around with a lot of women, we’ve had children with different women. How is it that you have maintained your path and you don’t do those things? How I would like to live a life like yours!’ What I have told them is that all you have to do is accept Jesus in your heart and He will help you prevent from doing bad things and things that aren’t good for you. So, God helps us so that we can have a new life. The answer is God — accept God and you will have a new life and will be born again. God is calling you and now is the time to draw close to God. Draw close to God because it is the best decision you can make. The only thing I can tell you is that the only thing I have to offer you as a gift is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ does not have a price; He is the best gift that you can have in your heart. Follow God because God has given us the promise of eternal life to all who follow Him according to his word. So, I believe in this. For that reason I continue following God.

Some people ask, ‘Why are you in church when so-and-so act like this or that? Why do you follow God when even church leaders act like this or that?´ I don’t follow any leader or friend or denomination. I follow Jesus, God, putting Him in the first place in my life. We are following God — not a pastor or leader or president — but God. Of course we are not perfect — no one is perfect but God is ready and willing to have mercy on each of us sinners. We have to continue forward, even when we fall, we have to get up while we have the chance when we are alive because when we are dead it will be too late. If we ask from our hearts for God to forgive us for the bad things we have done, God is ready [to forgive].

As God has given me a gift to compose music and play guitar and sing with my voice, I have wanted to serve only God. God has given me talent with instruments and singing. Sometimes I have friends who are musicians, Christians and non-Christians, who have invited me to sing and play with them in their bands and compose with them in different parts of the country. But for me, the themes are always about betrayal, revenge, hate, bitterness. No. For me, I am not for that. I am for composing worship and songs that shows the love of God. Through music we can share the power and love of God to all the people who want to know about the love of God.

Sometimes I begin to pray at four o’clock or five o´clock in the morning, I start to play guitar and compose songs.

(Guillermo plays an original song that says — ‘Today I am here before you. Today I humble myself. Thank you for guarding my youth. I am happy before you. I do not know how to thank you for all you have done for me.’)”

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The Word Broken Open

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January 18, 2014   Salasaca, Ecuador

When I think of the Quichua community in Salasaca, my heart and mind are flooded with joyous memories from 2008, when I came to Ecuador with a Youth Encounter music team, Kindred.  My stomach growls as I remember the warm rabbit stew that we ate and shared fellowship.  My feet are moved to dance to the music of the kena flute, the bombo deerskin drum, the strings of the charrango, and the singing of Christ’s love in a language other than my own.  My ears hear the chanting of Quichua Christians shouting ‘¿Quién vive? ¡Cristo! ¿Y a su nombre? ¡Gloria!’  (Who lives? Christ! And to his name? Be the glory!)

The Kingdom story-song has never sounded so bright, so clear, so beautiful to me than on Palm Sunday of 2008 when we were asked to help lead music for the local Quichua congregation, Diosga C’uyimi (God is Love).  I remember seeing villagers greet one another, women braiding each other’s hair and men adjusting their black ponchos.  Some had traveled over ten miles on foot.  As we stood to hear the Gospel lesson for Palm Sunday to be read from the Spanish Bible (the Quichua’s second language is Spanish), something unexpected happened.

Holding a tattered book in one hand and a microphone in the other, Pedro stepped forward.  He opened the book and began to read aloud his recently handwritten translation of the Palm Sunday narrative in Quichua:  ‘Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’

It was the first time this community had heard this Scripture in their very own language.  For the first time, the story of Christ’s victorious entry came to life in their own tongue.  Tears streamed down my face as a roar erupted from the Quichua women and men who surrounded me.  They applauded and with loud cheers escaping their lips, they shouted over and over again, ‘¡Amén! ¡Amén! ¡Alelúia!’

In 2008, in Salasaca, Ecuador, I saw the story of Christ break open over an entire community.  I saw the Word that took on flesh in a particular community, in a particular dialect, in a particular corner of the world, come to life for a whole village.  It was in that moment I felt called to tell the Story…

Six year later, Pedro leans in and speaks in Quichua to two of his Salasacan translation team members.  The three are stumped as how to translate 2 Corinthians 7:3 into Quichua since there is no conditional tense in their language.  After re-working the sentence for about an hour with no solution in sight, a communal coffee break is declared.

Pedro, and his wife, Cristina (who are both from the United States) and dozens of local Christian Salasacans have been laboring for about 25 years to translate the New Testament into the local Salasacan dialect of Quichua.  The Incan language of Quichua is spoken in many areas in Ecuador; however, the dialects differ as much as from Spanish to French or Spanish to Portuguese.  Although there is a translation of the Bible into the academic ‘Universal Quichua’ grammar, the Salasacan translators say that it is unrealistic for a community with a completely different dialect to utilize a translation in Universal Quichua since much of the vocabulary is so different or even non-existent in Salasacan Quichua.

Once 2 Corinthians is translated, Pedro’s and Lorenzo´s teams will move on to translate Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the smaller Pauline letters and so completing the New Testament.  Lorenzo’s team rejoices that their finished translation of Revelation is ready for publication.  They tell me how people from all over the village came to get their copies of the published translations of Luke/Acts and the audio recordings of the Gospel of Mark in Salasacan Quichua just a few years ago.  The team speaks to me passionately about the village’s desire to have the New Testament in their own language. 

‘‘One woman came to me a few years ago,’’ Pedro says to me, ‘‘and told me that she wanted to start learning how to read so that when the complete New Testament came out she could be able to read it on her own.  There is a desire here to have God’s word close to them, in their language.  There is a lot of hope that comes from being able to read and hear God’s promises in your own language.’’ 

Crisitina adds, ‘‘The message of forgiveness and radical acceptance is a message so needed here in Salasaca.’’

The team’s faith in Christ, diligence in their work, and love for the people here is absolutely inspiring.  I am a blessed witness to them as they work alongside the Holy Spirit who aches to sweep into the broken places of our lives and fill us with resurrection and restoration.

Cesar buries his head into his Bible as he prays aloud in Quichua.  Rolando leans against the wall as he sips his coffee and gazes at Volcano Tungurahua outside the window.  Coffee break winds down and the team gets back to work to complete their rough translation of 2 Corinthians chapter 7 before revisions.

‘Make room for us in your hearts…I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you…’ – 2 Corinthians 7:2a-3a

As the Word is spoken, the Spirit makes room in our hearts to receive the beautiful truth that God loves us and has revealed that love in the life, death, and rising of Christ.  As the Word breaks open over us again and again, we are reminded that God’s heart has been opened for us – all of us.  As the Word breaks open and is poured out for us, as we believe the truth about who we are and whose we are, we are made free to make room in our hearts for those around us and the stories that they bear.

Basking in the Word Broken Open,

Rachel Ringlaben
#onestorycatcher

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Sitting with two of the team’s native Quichua speakers and holding a newly printed Quichua translation of Lukes and Acts.

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Pedro and Cristina’s team of translators.

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Women gathering in front of the church downtown.

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The scene from our band, Kindred, playing at the church downtown on Palm Sunday 2008.  That’s me on the far left with acoustic and vocals, Danielle on djembe, Ludvigs on acoustic and vocals, Kami on vocals, and Ronnie on bass.  This was moments before the Gospel reading from Luke was said in Quichua for the first time.

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Ecuador – From the Andes to the Coast

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16 de enero de 2014          Salasaca, Ecuador

Imanalla (imanaja)!  Greetings from the Quichua-speaking community of Salasaca, Ecuador!  Last Tuesday I landed in Quito, Ecuador and reunited with brothers and sisters I had met from my 2008 Youth Encounter tour with Kindred.  It was a delight catching up on the last six years over warm caldos and tea.  After a couple of days of getting used to the altitude (whoah 9,350ft high!), exploring the city by taxi, and attending a service at Iglesia Palabra y Verdad (one of the Lutheran churches in Ecuador) I was well on my way to Salasaca, Ecuador via pick-up truck.

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While in Ecuador, I will be focusing on how Bible translation/interpretation and Bible study aids in the practice of storytelling within a faith community.  In Salasaca, I am spending time with a team made up of American citizens and native Salasacans who are laboring to translate the New Testament into their local Quichua dialect.  I am also spending my afternoons with kids at the local Compassion International school as they listen to recently translated Bible stories come to life in their classrooms…and of course, play soccer with them during recess!  After my time in Salasaca, I will travel with leaders from the Lutheran Bible Institute in Guayaquil to Quichua Christian communities in Cañar and Chimborazo.  I will also meet with leaders from Paz y Esperanza, a Christian human rights organization, before heading through Machala on the way to Peru for the next part of the journey.

Thank you for your prayers as I transition from my time in Guatemala to my time in Ecuador.  Stay tuned for stories from Salasaca!

Diosbendiceachun (God Bless You),

Rachel Ringlaben
#onestorycatcher
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It was such a joy to reunite with Pastor Roberto Chinchin (president of the Iglesia Evangélica Confesional Luterana de Ecuador) and his wife, Josefina, who were our hosts when I came to Ecuador with Kindred in 2008.

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The famous metal ”Virgen del Panecillo” sculpture that depicts St. John’s vision of the woman defeating the dragon in Revelation 12.

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Standing below the famous ”Panecillo” sculpture that stands tall above Quito’s mountainous metropolis. 

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I got to hear the story of Jonah, translated into the Salasacan dialect of Quichua, read by a Compassion school teacher, who then invited her students to tell their own version of the story.

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Fútbol time!!!!  Our team won – that’s what’s up.

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njoying yuca frita with peanut sauce and fresh pineapple juice after our soccer match.

 

 

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Epiphany in the Land of Eternal Spring

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January 6, 2014                Epiphany                                            Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala

In these last four and a half months, as I have lived and served alongside people here in Santiago, I have been given the nickname by the people here as the ¨Pastora of the streets.¨  It is a name that the elders and young kids have given to me and I am honored to have.  I have had many conversations with people who have come to me for prayer, for encouragement, for hope in the midst of struggle.  I share with them the love God has for them that has been revealed in Christ.  And at the same time, I rejoice with them in sharing that I have been delighted to see the hand of Christ in them, illuminating my time here…an Epiphany that occurs almost daily.

I find it quite fitting that my last day in Guatemala falls upon Epiphany.  In the Lutheran tradition, Epiphany is a feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.  In some Eastern church traditions, it also celebrates the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan.  The word, Epiphany, comes from the Greek word that means ¨manifestation, striking appearance, vision of God.¨ 

As I was telling a friend of mine about my new nickname given to me here, she encouraged me to write a sermon of the streets as I close my time here in Guatemala and as I ponder on what it has meant for us to receive visions of God in this day and in this land these last four and a half months.  So here it is, my Epiphany sermon of the streets.

Scars, Story, Name – An Epiphany Sermon of the Streets

I have often wondered what our stories would sound like without scars.  If the wounds we hold deep from war, from sickness, from despair, from hunger, from death – were swallowed up and held within an embrace as that of a mother who kisses skinned knees and wipes clean the tears from our faces when struggle is the daily bread that sticks to the roof of our mouths like the tortillas and salt used to still growling stomachs…

She opened her eyes wide as she walked up to me from the shore, her toothless grin competing with the silhouettes of the mountains cascading behind her.
¨Na’abi? What is your name?¨
¨Yaquiel,¨ I replied.
¨Yaquiel,¨ she sighed and repeated over and over again as she walked back to the shore to wash her peraje.

She looked like you – the One who gave us a new name.

He sat across from me in the tienda, tears in his eyes as he told me the memory of his mother saying she wished he were dead.  Yet through the tears, he spoke of finding a Love more profound than the story-scabs he carried.

He looked like you – the One who wept alongside us.

She wept into her long, black hair that covered her face.  She looked up at me and said, ¨I lost two children in the war, but I have been reminded in these last days what it is like to have a daughter again.¨

She looked like you – the One who yearns to gather us in Your embrace.

He ate lunch with me as he spoke of joining the guerilla army when he was ten years old.  A weighted gaze adorned his young, but wrinkled brow that bowed heavily over his tortillas.

He reminded me of You and our yearning for Your Peace to reign eternal…

Like dry bones gifted flesh, we wonder if breath could enter into these scars and bring forth life.  We wonder if we are being beckoned to be surprised at the hand of the Christ taking hold of us, showing us that our scars are not signs of punishment or abandonment, but rather that they are moments where we squint more earnestly to see Your hand at work in our world. 

The Spirit hand that moves breath into our lungs and into the northern winds that stir up Lake Atitlán.  The Spirit that groans alongside us in our daily labors.  The Spirit Advocate who sees our scars and cries out for justice.  The Spirit that whispers into our scars, ¨Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.¨*  The voice of our Christ who declares, ¨I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you… ¨*    

We waited on the shore and watched the sky turn from blue to yellow to purple as the eye of the moon gazed at us from above.  We opened wide our scars to the epiphanies around us – the sounds of kids kicking a plastic soccer ball in the street, the waves of Lago Atitlán lapping as a fisherman rowed his cayuca, the splashing and beating of clothes against rocks as women cleaned their cortes, the mists that crowned Volcán San Pedro´s peak, the wrinkled hands of elders who open their homes and hearts, the broken body and blood poured out for us.

We felt the wintery scales from our scars fall off onto the flowered ground of this land of eternal Spring.  The scars of our winters cracked open over our stories and ushered us into a womb of an empty grave that birthed us into resurrection, eternal Spring, where scars and wounds were swallowed up and held in an embrace as that of a mother embracing her beloved, as that of the Christ gathering us into His scars.

She emerged from the baptismal waters of Atitlán, ¨Quenta´abi May you be well.¨

She looked like you – the One who emerged from the water, Beloved of God.

We stepped into the Lake, all of us together, speaking a benediction into the breeze before us and behind us.  Our words and stories floated in the wind and came back to us. 

¨Na’abi? What is your name?¨ the eternal Spring breeze whispered to us.

¨Our name is not orphan,¨ we sang.  ¨Our name is child.¨

*Isaiah 49:15-16
*John 14:18

Rachel Ringlaben
#onestorycatcher

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Born Unto Us to Bear Our Stories

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…” – Isaiah 9:6

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Every year at my mother’s house, as each week in December past nearing towards Christmas Eve, we would gather around the Advent wreath and sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  We would then read parts of the Christmas story from the Gospels and my brother and I would fight over who got to extinguish the candles first before singing a final hymn and then heading to bed.  As I think back on those ten minutes or so we spent together every night, we were no longer just a family gathered around a Story – we were being gathered into the Story.  We were being held by the Story – the Word – born unto us as God made Flesh in order to bear our stories. 

My time in Santiago has been a time of seeing God with skin on in the midst of the yearning within the stories of our lives.  I visit with women who have been raped. I sit with men who have lost sons in war. I bear witness to indigenous leaders’ frustrations as they strive to preserve their history and place in society. I am approached in the streets by young boys who need someone to pray with them as they do not know where the finances to pay for their schooling will come from in the following month. I am confided in by high school girls who have dreams to serve their community but fear they will never make a difference. I am taken by the hand by children who lead me through mass graves of victims from Hurricane Stan. I am beckoned to visit the homes of women and men who have temporarily lost sight of resurrection and they ask me if that makes them bad Christians. 

I climb a 9,900 ft. tall volcano with young men who dream of making a difference in their community.  I am blessed by friends bringing me hot arroz con leche when I am sick.  I smile alongside young women who serve their elders as they teach me to perfect my tamale making skills.  I am overwhelmed by the boisterous and defiant laughter that comes in the midst of struggle and pain.  I am overjoyed at witnessing new and vibrant colors of a life lived in beloved community and in awe of God coming near – every single day.  I learn to listen with ears and heart wide open while entrusting all of our stories to the One who made us.

This Advent, I am learning anew what it is to yearn and breathe and sing and laugh and cry to the One who was born unto us – to the One who has born us into a new Story. 

A story of a virgin womb conceiving the Christ.
A story of the Christ who dirtied his feet and hands and tears alongside us who yearn.
A story of the Jesus who bore all of our stories and yearnings in His flesh, in His life, in His death, in His rising.
A story that resurrects us like phoenixes arising from ashes, like breath entering into a Lazarus-corpse.
A story that teaches us to dance to the figure-eight rhythm of God taking us by the hand, constantly leading us from death into life.

It is this Story that captivates me and propels me forward. 

I want to personally thank you all for your prayers, support, friendship, and encouragement during my first four months with the Graduate Preaching Fellowship as I follow the Story of God at work in our world.  I look forward to the remaining months where I will be surprised all the more by the Spirit-story at work within and around us. 

A Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas to you All,

Rachel Ringlaben
#onestorycatcher

2013-2014 GPF Recipient
Blog: onestorycatcher.wordpress.com
Twitter & Instagram: Storycatcher_RR
YouTube channel: Rachel Storycatcher

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